15 Recipes to Break the Fast During Ramadan

Tunisian Brik Breakfast Pastry
Photo: Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Ramadan has begun, and the Islamic holy month will last until sundown on April 20. During this time, Muslims around the world will spend the time between sunup and sundown in prayer and fasting, then breaking their fast at iftar meals. This collection of recipes includes favorites from throughout the Muslim world, such as a hearty lentil soup, a carrot salad featuring dates, a celebration-worthy lamb biryani, and sweet desserts like this show-stopping knafeh. Read along for more satisfying recipes to break the fast.

01 of 15


© Zubin Schroff

This tart and refreshing Lebanese salad is very versatile; you can make it with lettuce or purslane, and with or without bread. The fresh herbs are important not only to add flavor but also to hold the ground sumac that gives the dish its distinctive taste. 

02 of 15

Tunisian Brik Breakfast Pastry

Tunisian Brik Breakfast Pastry
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Brik is a very thin, brittle pastry that shatters with each bite. It's used in Tunisian cooking, and here as the base for a breakfast pastry stuffed with egg, potato, roasted fennel, and creamy, salty feta. Brik is easy to make, but if you prefer, you can swap in two sheets of frozen phyllo dough that have been thawed and brushed with olive oil before layered together (please note that phyllo will brown a little faster than homemade pastry). The green harissa served alongside this breakfast pastry is herby, spicy, and bright; serve any leftover harissa with eggs, grilled meats, or on a sandwich.

03 of 15

Yogurt Rice

Yogurt Rice
Photo by Greg DuPree / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer

Yogurt rice is a comfort food throughout South Asia. Tempering the toppings in hot oil, a technique known as making a tadka, brings out their flavors and is the perfect counterpoint to the cooling yogurt in this simple, homey dish. Be sure to use plain whole-milk yogurt, not a strained, Greek-style yogurt, for the creamiest porridge-like texture.

04 of 15

Lamb Biryani

Lamb Biryani

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Nidia Cueva

This lamb biryani requires several steps, but is well worth the effort. After the biryani bakes, give it pride of place on the table before you break through the flaky browned crust to reveal the rice and lamb inside. The rising steam carries with it the aromas of toasted cardamom, cumin, saffron, and Kashmiri chile powder. It’s a reward for everyone at the table, a celebration in and of itself.

05 of 15

Chocolate-Hazelnut Baklava

Chocolate-Hazelnut Baklava
© Kana Okada

Hazelnuts, chocolate, cinnamon, and honey make this baklava from Oleana Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, stand out; it's rich and sweet enough to satisfy you after a big meal.

06 of 15

Roasted Carrots with Preserved Lemons and Dates

Roasted Carrots with Preserved Lemon and Dates
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Dates are eaten throughout Ramadan, and bring notes of sweet chewiness to this side dish. Fresh herbs, two kinds of citrus, and a honey-za'atar vinaigrette lend this charred carrot salad bright flavors.

07 of 15

Zeytinyağli Yaprak Sarmasi (Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Zeytinyagil Yaprak Sarmasi
Photo by Eva Kolenko / Food Styling by Carrie Purcell / Prop Styling by Jillian Knox

From the Turkish region of Mugla, these tangy, tender vegetarian rice-and-herb-stuffed grape leaves created by Musa Dagdeviren can be made a day ahead, making them a great appetizer for easy entertaining. The brightness of the brined grape leaves is balanced by the rice filling, which is seasoned with fresh parsley and dill and slightly sweet cooked onions. If making the stuffed grape leaves the day before, refrigerate them overnight and bring them to room temperature before serving.

08 of 15

Shrimp and Vegetable Tagine with Preserved Lemon

Shrimp-and-Vegetable Tagine with Preserved Lemon
© Petrina Tinslay

When Mourad Lahlou first came to the U.S. from Morocco to study economics, he taught himself to cook because he was too broke to eat out. He had never heard of famed Mediterranean-food writer Paula Wolfert until she walked into his first Bay Area restaurant, Kasbah, over 10 years ago. "She knew more about my food than I did," says Lahlou. He then began using her 1973 cookbook, Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco, to help him make recipes like this spiced shrimp stew; the dish is on his menu at Aziza in San Francisco.

09 of 15

Turkish Ground Lamb Pizzas

Turkish Ground-Lamb Pizzas
© Michael Turek

At her takeout shop in Istanbul, Kantin Dükkan, Semsa Denizsel tops her pizzas with ground lamb (flavored with sweet sun-dried tomatoes and a little spicy red pepper), but you can substitute ground beef instead. To make the pizza even more substantial, bake it with an egg on top; the runny yolk is terrific with the whole-wheat crust.

10 of 15

Royal Falooda

Royal Falooda
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

There is no incorrect way to layer falooda, the milky, traditionally rose-flavored dessert beloved in India, Pakistan, and other parts of South Asia. Everyone has their own preference on how to stack the components — but agree that falooda is always best built in a tall glass. This dessert stars bouncy cubes of rose jelly suspended in rose syrup–sweetened milk over layers of tender corn vermicelli and chewy chia seeds. A crowning scoop of vanilla ice cream adds a creamy finish. With its beguiling mix of textures, the Royal Falooda belongs to a category of colorful, cooling desserts that appear throughout Asia which are hard to label but extremely easy to eat.

11 of 15

Turkey Kibbe Kebabs with Two Sauces

Turkey Kibbe Kebabs with Two Sauces
© James Baigrie

Paula Wolfert learned this unusual dish from Burhan Cagda, the kebab expert of Gaziantep, Turkey. Bulgur mixed in with the ground meat makes the kebabs light and tender. The two sauces — one tangy, herbal and nutty and the other creamy and garlicky — play off the smoky kebabs and off each other as well. 

12 of 15

Yayla Çorbası (Turkish Yogurt Soup) with Velibah

Yayla Çorbası (Turkish Yogurt Soup) with Velibah
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Although most Turks will opt for a pillowy square of pide bread to accompany this soup of yogurt, barley, and dried mint, buttery-crisp velibah stuffed with feta and potato is a go-to for editor Oset Babür-Winter's family, who hails from Ossetia, a state in the South Caucasus.

13 of 15

Kibbeh Bil Sanieh

Kibbeh Bil Sanieh
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Kibbeh Bil Sanieh, also called Pizza Kibbeh for its appearance, is a spiced, bulgur-based vegetarian main course, a decadent dish enjoyed by the monks at Saint Anthony of Qozhaya in Lebanon on special occasions. This version is one of their favorites. It's one of Ana Sortun's favorites, too. Sortun, who learned how to make the recipe from the Lebanese monks, offers this advice: "The most important part is to knead the bulgur in the same fashion as though it were meat, until it holds together and becomes creamy — usually a minute, sometimes a bit more. You can use your hands or a KitchenAid with a paddle attachment. If you don't knead the bulgur enough, it will stay crumbly."

14 of 15

Slow Cooker Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard

Slow Cooker Indian-Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard
© Sarah Bolla

This soup partners fresh turmeric with cinnamon, cumin, and coriander to spice up red lentils and wilted Swiss chard. It's power-packed full of flavor and warmth and also subtly sweet. To serve, add a dollop of yogurt for a bright, creamy, and cooling topping.

15 of 15

Knafeh (Shredded Phyllo-and-Cheese Pie)

Knafeh (Shredded Phyllo-and-Cheese Pie)
Greg DuPree

Michael Solomonov, chef at Zahav in Philadelphia, and Reem Kassis, author of The Palestinian Table, formed an unlikely friendship around their shared, though much disputed, food heritage. They both love this knafeh, a sweet, cheese-filled dessert, encased in shredded phyllo pastry (kataifi) and soaked in a fragrant syrup laced with rose and orange blossom.

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